Friday, August 20, 2010

Eyeball to Hoof: Down Under, Checking the Fit

Checking the Fit, originally uploaded by CowCopTim.

Something about this photo just grabs me. It's another of those, "Huh!" sorts of photos. A photographer frames something we see often in a way that makes it interesting and visually compelling. And makes it look pretty dangerous!

Photographer Tim Dawson had a wonderful time at the New Zealand Farriers Association's North Island Dairy Flat Forging and Heavy Horse Competition in Auckland on July 23-24. While I try to figure out which farrier this is, I will let you enjoy the shot.

For the uninitiated who may have stumbled upon this image, you are looking at the age-old act of a hot horseshoe being pressed against the trimmed bottom of a Clydesdale's hoof. The farrier will hold it there firmly for a few seconds (no, it doesn't hurt the horse) while it gives off some acrid sulphurous smoke. Then he will pull it away and observe the hoof to see if the burn mark is uniform around the wall of the hoof. This will tell him if the shoe is level; without a level shoe, the nails won't be tight and if the nails aren't tight...well, you remember the old "All for want of a horseshoe nail" ditty.

This process is called "hot fitting" and it is done for all types of horses. It is even done for Thoroughbred racehorses, though they wear thin aluminum shoes that can't be heated and pressed. I don't think it has been scientifically proven, but it is widely believed that feet that have been hot fit hold together better because the horn tubules are somehow "sealed" by the heat and they keep out bacteria or there is some other beneficial effect that protects the hoof wall.

But nothing is quite as dramatic as hot fitting a Clydesdale.

The Clydesdale competition was won by Grant Nyhan, Marcel Veart-Smith and Deane Gebert.

Thanks to Tim Dawson for allowing this photo to be shown on the Hoof Blog today.